With the Missouri Legislature showing little interest in raising the state’s gasoline tax in an election year, the Missouri Department of Transportation plans to rely on its cash reserves to secure federal matching funds in the next few years.
Experts and officials say reserves are usually kept to counter revenue fluctuations or fund emergency expenditures such as lawsuit payouts, but spending them to cover financial difficulties is common among state government agencies.
A proposal to raise the state’s 17-cent-per-gallon gas tax — the fifth lowest in the country — died in the legislature last session, and Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff, will likely face House opposition on his plan to hold a statewide referendum in November to raise the tax by 5.9 cents.
The passage of a five-year, $305 billion federal transportation bill last year will allow MoDOT and other state agencies some breathing room.
But reserves are still expected to dip to around $214 million in six years, down from $831 million at the beginning of the current fiscal year, a level that could be dangerous if a large and unexpected repair or rebuild projects crop up, director Patrick McKenna said.
Read more: St. Louis Post-Dispatch